Sunday, November 25, 2012
Sunday of the Fulfillment Jude 20-25
And you, loved by God, building yourselves upon your holy faith, in the Holy Spirit, praying; you keep yourselves in the love of God, awaiting-with-expectation the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ into life everlasting. On the one hand, you have mercy on some divided ones; on the other hand, others, you save, out of fire you drag away; and on a third hand you have mercy on some, in fear, hating even clothes stained from the flesh. And to the One able to safeguard you without stumbling and to stand before His glory blamelessly in gladness, in the Only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord glory, greatness, power, and authority before all the eons, and now, and into all the eons. Amen.
Today is the very last Sunday of the church year, known as the Festival of the Fulfillment. On this occasion, our attention is drawn to that Day when everything God intends to accomplish in this world is completed. When the good & gracious will of God on earth is done, on that last day Jesus will return at the last trumpet, with the voice of the Archangel. He returns from the right hand of the heavenly throne to judge all people, sending the unrighteous to perish, the righteous remaining in Him.
Now, the challenge before us this day is that we don't know when all God's work on this earth will be finished, so we don't know how long we have until Judgment Day. Because of this, there ought to be an intense sense of urgency for all of us in the church to do whatever we can to save those close to us, dragging them away from the hell-fire that is certain to come otherwise. But sadly, we don't seem very urgent about this. Instead, we go about our daily grinds as though Jesus isn't even returning!
For this we need to repent as a church, and you too as individual Christians. You have family members, friends, co-workers, fellow club-members, any of whom may not have saving faith in Jesus as you have. God gave you a faith in Christ as a gift of His love, to trust in His mercy that He delivers to you through the word preached to you, and in the sacraments–God's love-in-action which you receive. Do you not want the same mercy for those you care about, which you already receive here?
A second challenge is to have anticipation for Jesus to come back quickly. Do you eagerly pray for the return of your Lord & Savior? Is Judgment Day something you think about each day as you await Christ's return with expectation? Or instead, is this something far from your mind, most days? Perhaps you are content with your favorite trespasses and sinful habits you enjoy. Maybe you don't really want to shun all the ways of this wicked world, comfortable in your garments stained with sin.
For this too each of us needs to repent. As you await Christ's return, you need to be bathed constantly in God's mercy. Your baptism is given to you as a daily bath, to cleanse you from unrighteousness. You need daily contrition & repentance, so that the old Adam of your sinful flesh can be drowned & die daily as you remember that you are a baptized child of God, washed clean and made holy by the Lord He keeps you from stumbling and stands you up blameless in His sight.
A third challenge we face as the church awaits the fulfillment of all things on earth is being divided. God builds you, His church, into one building, upon the foundation of your holy faith in Christ Jesus. He Himself is the foundation stone that we all are to be built upon. Yet, there are times when you prefer an "us vs. them" attitude. You may look down on those with doubts, prideful of your own confidence. Perhaps you shun God's teachings of mercy in favor of your own way of thinking.
For this also, every one of us must repent. For God alone is the One with the greatness, power, might, and authority to provide the mercy the church needs to remain built upon the solid foundation of faith in Christ Jesus. He teaches us this in Sunday School, Bible class, and in devotions. He proclaims this unifying grace in sermons like this one, declaring to you: "Jesus gives you mercy to life everlasting from the +, where He gave His life as a ransom for yours, trading your death for his eternal life!"
So what is given you as you await Christ's return on the last Day? First, His gift of saving mercy is yours, payed for in full at Calvary, delivered to you in His word proclaimed & in sacraments received. Secondly, God gives you a task as you eagerly anticipate Judgment Day: to take that saving mercy which you have received, and in turn, give it to others in your life whom you care about. How?
You can invite them to church to receive these gifts along with you; you can bring them to the pastor's adult information class to learn about this foundation of the faith; and you can tell them about what Jesus has already done for you. In this way you may have mercy on some, as God has had on you.
Hymns for today from LSB:
#663 Rise my Soul to Watch and Pray
#336 Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending
#659 Lord of our Life and God of our Salvation